Memories are tricky things. They can either pull you down dark rabbit holes or lift you up to the skies on warm clouds of sugar, spice and everything nice.
Make-up memories generally tend to belong to the latter, but they’re also in a special, coming of age category of their own. Some of my first ones involved doing my mum’s makeup with absolutely no concept of lip lines (*sorry mum*) and messy run-ins with her eyeshadows with a result so Adams Family-like it put me off eye make-up for years.
Unlike my mother, who really wasn’t precious about what was in her make-up bag except for some very good mascara, my grandmother had and still has a taste for expensive stuff. One of my earliest memories of mischief was grabbing a brand new pot of Helena Rubinstein night cream and hiding behind the couch with my cousin Ana smearing that rich, lovely scented potion of dreams all over our 6 year-old faces. Needless to say we were both grounded for a week.
Secretly going though her bathroom cabinet was for most of my teen years and a chunky portion of my adult life an absolute escapist pleasure. Rummaging through an Alladin’s Cave worth of foundations, blushers, powders and lipsticks was the very definition of fun. Her choices, though, were not exactly a state of the art, moving with the times kind of affair. She stuck to a couple of brands and when it came to lipstick about two variations of the same shade – a dusky rose pink I deemed utterly unfashionable as I put it on because there was nothing else and pouted at the mirror dreaming of a big fat red lip.
As the years passed I got my red lip and then some. My make-up game was raised and a lot of time was spent mimicking and emulating beauty icons and trying very hard to rock shades which were simply never gonna work for me. Part of the journey is taking risks, no doubt. But with make-up these come at a dear price at the till.
Then came motherhood. Being robbed of sleep for 3 solid years and still looking like you’re not dying of a terrible disease is no mean feat, I tell you. I owe make-up part of my sanity. The past few years have been less about contouring, strobing and other trends and more about looking semi-rested. And so the hunt began for a lipstick that looked like my lips, only better, also known as a nude. Nudes are a minefield. Just as foundation plays on skintone, lipstick has twice the task to perform: It needs to adapt to the natural colouring of your lips and look good against your skin tone too. No wonder it’s so difficult to find a nude that doesn’t make you look dead. It’s as tricky to nail as reds saying chic Parisienne instead of red light district.
On a recent trip back home, my grandmother pulled me to the side after seeing me run after my son all day looking like Frankenstein on a bad day . “I’ve got something for you,” she said. She handed me a tube of Clarins lipstick, her favourite brand. “Dusky rose, grandma?” I asked. “Well not quite, it’s a bit brighter…” she prefaced.
I swiped the pinky brown shade across my parched lips and it was like I had just done a massive 360 on a lifetime of make-up goals. This was indeed dusky rose again. It was also now perfection, the lipstick equivalent of a nice warm cup of tea, a hug, and lo and behold my perfect shade of nude. It made me look instantly healthier, lifted my spirits, and gave me a VIP access pass to the best of my memory bank.
So no, it wasn’t a MAC lippy, it doesn’t feel 3D or a high tech game changer and it won’t hold through lunch. This Clarins beauty will leave marks on your coffee cup and will disappear at the bite of a biscuit but like a hug it’s easy, familiar, reassuring, and best of all you can reapply it without a mirror, quickly and stylishly as the tube looks gorgeous.
And after all, what’s the point of a hug if you can’t go back to it time and again? Thanks, grandma. I always knew you were on to something. ❤️